Mentally unwell, trying to get well



reading room

A novelist talks about mental illness

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is mā te korero, ka ora – take your time for korero. Taking the time to talk sounds so simple, but this basic human need for connection can be overlooked when it’s easier to hide than to reveal the vulnerable self. I know how it works. I remember trying to deal with mental illness during my darkest days and scolding myself for appearing so needy that I made the decision to stop talking to friends and family.

I am writing in my new novel Crazy love“Each of us has vices to get through the difficult times. We are looking for solutions and help. Personally, I have tried friends, lottery, tears, assigning blame, prayers, sulking, hiding with my dog ​​in closets, running away, staying. ” in bed, a little booze, a lot of booze, marijuana, fights and storming out. Everything works. None of this works. “

Crazy love is the story of a couple who struggled through many times of crisis to stay in business and together. It was three years after we lost our business and home that my husband’s bipolar-1 disorder showed us its full muscles and caused a mental breakdown that resulted in my husband planning an early retirement. Failure is a huge emotion to deal with. Sometimes the resilience of getting up and moving on just doesn’t work.

In these times we need to know that we are not alone. It is precisely in these times that we need our community. We have to be brave enough to talk and share. Not only with the professionals – most of them currently have six-month waiting lists for new customers anyway – but also with each other.

We need to talk, a friend wrote to me last night. I finished your book a few days ago and I’m still working on things, but when I have I need to talk to you about it.

Another friend told me about a thread that started during the recent lockdown between Whine writers seeking each other for support, advice, and encouragement. “Being a writer is a privilege,” she says. “The trip is inherently lonely, unsafe, and stressful – a mental health challenge.” And she is right. During the 2020 bans, this writer friend formed a messenger group with me and two others. We call ourselves that Lockdown bitches, and we often ask each other for advice. Sometimes a question can hang around for hours, even a day or two before everyone has answered, but knowing it’s a safe place to raise concerns and seek help doesn’t require immediate answers. Just knowing they’re there and listening is so comforting.

That’s how we love each other. By being there By sharing.


Even in these times, books can often be a gift of love. I think of Hinemoa Elder’s book Aroha, appeared a year ago and is still frequently on the NZ bestseller list. A discovery of traditional Māori philosophy by 52 Whakatauki, one for each week of the year, such as: “Ki te kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia, e kore e whati. When we stand alone we are vulnerable, but together we are unbreakable. “

There are also Collaborative and Indigenous Psychotherapy: Tataihono – Stories of Maori Healing and Psychiatry by Wiremu NiaNia, Allioster Bush and David Epston. Over 700 copies were sold in the women’s bookstore alone.

There are also Sadness and happiness, a novel by Meg Mason; Impostor, by Matt Chisholm; and It doesn’t end like that, Memoirs of the well-known journalist Jehan Casinader

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to write your story in a book takes courage, and I admit when I first wrote it Crazy love, I had no intention of admitting it was life down – it was a last minute decision. But when I think of Charlotte Grimshaws The mirror book, I realize what a gift it is to be able to look into someone else’s life and relate to some of the experiences. We understand that we are not alone. And it’s important that our writers, whose books were released during the lockdown, know that they’re not alone either.

Writers like Angelique Kasmara, her breathtaking debut novel Isobar district asks, “How do we heal people so that the place we want to be is right now?”

Or Eileen Merrimans Double helix: “Nobody tells you how deep the grief penetrates you, layer by layer.”

It’s ironic that my novel Crazy love ends with Auckland City in lockdown 2020 because New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown on the night of the book launch. Just as the speeches began, the mobile emergency alarm buzzed through our phones, adding to the surreality of the evening as I knew that our whole country would be locked back in the safety of our homes within hours, and my years of work in bookstores would be for weeks to get stuck. Yes, I understand this dark place of disappointment felt by these writers and many others whose books were also stuck during this time. And I’m grateful for the online rooms that keep these books alive, like ReadingRoom and the Academy of New Zealand Literature.

Also worth mentioning is Poetry Live’s open mic every Tuesday night at The Thirsty Dog, K’road, where many writers started and continue to share their stories. “I had no other place in the world to share my experiences,” says Miriam Barr. “The poetry community gave me this space.” Miriam is a poet and performer and clinical psychologist who often uses poetry in her therapy sessions and recommends Toi Ora poetry classes on Ponsonby Road for beginners.

Those who put our stories into words, be it fiction, non-fiction or something in between, can do so through lived experience and can therefore give something back. And I know that is what all the authors named here want.

As my wonderful Te ​​Reo tutor, Tūraukawa Bartlett, from Manavation taught me this week: Kia ū ki te whanaungatanga. Make relationships a priority.

A bestseller and critical success, Crazy love by Rosetta Allan (Penguin Random House, $ 30) is available in bookstores nationwide.



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